Some of the events surrounding Saturday's special Democratic caucus to elect the candidate for Indiana's 7th Congressional District seat after the death of Rep. Julia Carson seem a little off. Julia's grandson, Andre Carson, won the 8-way election on the first round of voting - a grand political coup for someone who's never ran in an election against an opponent and whose only political background is being appointed to the City-County Council for a couple of months.
I'm not one for a conspiracy theory, but usually where there is smoke there's fire and there is a lot of smoke blowing around Indy right now. I'm not saying I have all of the answers, but I have lots of questions. It's not clear if this election was fixed or botched or both, but something just isn't right. Follow me after the jump and make your own conclusion.
The Congresswoman's Death
Julia announced she had lung cancer late last year and died shortly thereafter. Potential candidates were left scrambling while her grandson obviously knew before everyone else. A special election in which a maximum of only 599 precinct committee persons would vote determines the nominee. What would you do in that situation? Keeping everyone else out in the cold as long as possible gives you plenty of time to get key people in place and appoint as many of your own precinct committee persons as you can.
At Julia's funeral Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) and Louis Farrakhan praised Andre and urged attendees to choose him to replace his grandmother. Kilpatrick and Tubbs Jones both claimed Julia's deathbed wish was "Send my seed." Yet Andre rarely appeared publicly with Julia. If I'd wanted my grandson to follow in my footsteps I'd have been pointing him out everywhere and saying "Keep an eye on this guy! He's going places." She didn't.
The 8 candidates for the special caucus had to pay the Democratic Party $500 each for lists of the Precinct Committee people eligible to vote in the special caucus. Confusion ensued as different candidates received different lists and some candidates complained of contacting dozens of supposed committee persons only to find out the lists were horribly out of date.
I don't know about you, but at nearly $1 per person on the list, I'd expect accuracy. Knowing that Indiana hasn't had to replace a Congressperson in a special election in over 50 years, I think I'd probably double check everything.
The Marion County Democratic Party was responsible for the list. Ultimately, the excuse was that the county party hadn't used the 2006 election data to update the PC lists. Mike O'Connor, the county party chair, was "out of communication" while vacationing in California the week prior to the vote. After all, California is a barren wasteland devoid of even tin cans and string for communication.
Several precinct committee persons who should have been able to vote yesterday weren't allowed to cast ballots. I was one of them. The county party is being blamed for providing incorrect lists of eligible precinct committee persons - several times.
In my case, I am an appointed committeeman. Somehow, I ended up being made Jerame's vice-precinct committeman instead of being assigned my own precinct (where I should have been to start with!) Party rules say that the roles have to be filled by a man and a woman. Two people of the same gender can't serve together in the same precinct. That made my appointment as vice invalid, so the party decided to put me in my own precinct and allow me to vote. I had phone calls the night before the caucus from 3 different people to tell me I could vote after all. One came directly from party headquarters at 8:30pm.
At 9:00am, I showed up and tried to register but was refused. After I spoke to attorney Mark Lee, I was told that they'd received another list from the county party that said I wasn't elected. That's true. I wasn't. I was appointed to the wrong spot and given another precinct. And that had nothing to do with the problem at hand.
I got shipped off to Dan Parker, Chairman of the state Democratic Party, who said that I had become City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield's vice chair somehow. She had the vote, not me. Once again, I'm somehow another person's vice and not appointed to my own precinct. There were plenty of vacancies.
Only with a signed proxy statement from Angela (who had no idea that she'd suddenly gained a VP sometime in the wee hours of the morning) could I vote. Why would she give me her proxy if she's already there and registered to vote? I was disenfranchised.
Other precinct committee persons who were appointed in early November weren't entered into the system until December - after the deadline to be eligible to vote in yesterday's caucus. Sources tell me that's about 80 people.
I spoke to 3 other disenfranchised voters yesterday at the caucus. Another called me today. None of us would have voted for Carson. That's five votes. Andre needed 220 votes to win. He got 223. If the five of us alone had voted, he wouldn't have won on the first round. I can't say how the other 80 or so people would have voted, but 223 definitely would not have been enough to win.
Ironically, the state Party chair opened and closed the proceedings with remarks on how Democrats count every vote. Not mine.
Voting Floor Shenanigans
There were about 10 touch screen electronic voting machines in place for the special election. With 440 people to get through, while guaranteeing no one voted twice and everyone got to vote, the process was excruciatingly slow.
Strangely, with fewer than half of the votes cast, officials started shutting down some of the machines. When asked, they said they were getting an early start on tallying the votes and reprogramming the machines. The rules of the special election stipulated that if no one got the requisite 50% on the first vote, the lowest vote getter would be removed and a new vote would take place. It takes about 30 minutes to reprogram the machines for the next vote.
Let's be clear. The tallies are practically instantaneous on these machines. Reprogramming them takes time, certainly, but you can't start reprogramming them until you know the results of the first vote anyway. So what time savings was realized here?
If you watch the video of Dan Parker reading off the vote totals, you'll notice something a little odd. He says that 439 votes were cast (even though 440 people registered.) When he reads off the numbers for each candidate it adds up to a total of 435 votes. That's 4 votes short.
The explanation given to me by a Democratic insider is that those voters went to the machine, but didn't select a candidate when they cast their vote. Which would mean four people went through registration, wandered the halls, waited through the instructions, sat in their rows, waited in a long line, walked to a machine, acted like they voted and got their card punched to show they'd already voted, just to do nothing? Someone wasted all those hours to not do something? Seriously?
The Missing Machines
After yesterday's vote, two of the voting machines were stolen and are currently missing. The staffers say they had gone to lunch, but would have had to have gone out of their way. The warehouse for votes is on Washington Street near downtown. The caucus took place on 34th Street. The machines were stolen about 15 blocks north of the polling place. Washington Street is south of 34th Street.
After the caucus, a vehicle containing the voting machines used in the caucus was broken into in the 5900 block of North College Avenue while members of the Democratic party were having lunch.
Two machines, valued at $5,000 each were taken from the vehicle. Metro police doesn't know how much damage was done to the vehicle and they have no suspects at this time.
What about the PEB units that store the actual votes cast on the machines? Were they stolen as well? No one has divulged that information.
Concluding With Questions
Can you read my eyebrows raising? Doesn't this all seem rather coincidental to you?
Several folks - Democrat and Republican - have called me today to talk about this. They all have their own ideas on what happened, but all of them have been generous with their complaints and skepticism. The county party, the state party, and the Carson machine have all been blamed for dropping the ball, attempting to rig the system, or cheating outright.
I'm not one to spin conspiracy theories, but this smells worse than Limburger cheese.
I want to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt. I want someone to explain the discrepancies and take responsibility. I want to get clear answers to these questions I'm left with:
Who was ultimately responsible for the list of eligible committee persons, why didn't they do their job, and what is being done about it?
What was the breakdown of this extremely late update from the MCDP? How many "newly appointed" PCs were on the list? We know this update disenfranchised at least 5 people, but how many did it enfranchise that otherwise wouldn't have been eligible?
With so much confusion and last minute shuffling, how can we be assured of the accuracy and integrity of this last minute update? After all, I was shuffled between three spots within 24 hours.
With the Carson machine a long-standing institution in Indianapolis, how are we to to know this wasn't a done deal by party insiders?
How did the Democratic party - of Voter ID fame - end up disenfranchising so many Democratic voters?
When will the mainstream media start reporting about some of these problems with this election?
[Candidate Jeffery] White indicated no one should be anointed to run for office.
“It’s becoming a mockery of democracy around here,” he said.
As it stands, I spent 4 hours doing nothing. I wasn't allowed to vote even though I should have been eligible. Shady dealings abounded with hardly any questions asked, but I hope to have some on-the-record answers soon.